Chemistry News

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers courses to help students prepare for careers

Chemistry offers a course called Cutting Edge Chemistry: Research and Career Opportunities. Building upon the foundations of the learning community, this course is designed to get students to start to think about their post-graduation plans.

The course is team taught by Levi Stanley, associate professor in chemistry; Aaron Sadow, professor of chemistry; Joe Burnett, senior lecturer in chemistry; and Terry Kruse, academic adviser in chemistry.

“We want students to be able to connect with the stories,” Burnett said. “We really want the faculty to come in and talk about their career paths, the decisions that they made and to talk about their current research interests.”

The course also brings in scientists from industry settings, career consultants from the American Chemical Society and students who have had research or internship experiences and includes fields trips to nearby businesses that employ chemists such as Ames’ water treatment plant, Hach Chemical, or a student favorite – the state crime lab in Ankeny.

“Chem 110 was very useful for career planning because we heard a variety of speakers who all took different career paths,” said Matthew Ryan (‘20 chemistry). “This made me realize that for a field such as chemistry, there are endless career options to explore and consider.”

Three LAS professors honored with inaugural Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Professorship

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences launched a Dean's Professorship this year, and our very own Dr. Theresa Windus is named as one of the first three to be honored. Windus will hold this distinction for at least three years, with additional faculty to be named in a few years.

Windus' research focusses on computational and theoretical chemistry. She is also an important leader in the push to make optimal use of computational resources and methods in a variety of fields.

Congratulations to Theresa Windus on this prestigous honor!

Chemistry touts 3 of 13 students to receive Dean's High Impact Undergraduate Research Awards

In the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 13 students recieved Dean's High Impact Undergraduate Research Awards to support their summer research with faculty. The Department of Chemistry touts three awardees, Katelyn Baumler, Zachary Robole, and Anthony Song.

Baumler is working in the lab of Javier Vela, on synthesizing a semiconductor that could be used in thermoelectric devices, which convert waste heat into useable energy.

Robole is working in the lab of Brett VanVeller, observing boronic acids as a key modulator in controlling the oxidation of catechol (a biorenewable feedstock and a base molecule for many kinds of products).

Song is working in the lab of Jacob Petrich, on determining the parameters for quantifying the amount of grass consumend by cows by looking at chlorophyll specific optical signature of milk.

We wish these undergraduate research all the best in the pursuit of the academic and career goals.

Kinetics drive formation of Cu islands beneath graphite surfaces

The Material Research Society has published a nice summary/feature of some recent work of Ann Lii-Rosales (pictured) and Pat Thiel (published in J Phys Chem C), they have now determined the optimal formation conditions and characterized the mophology of copper islands beneath the topmost layers of graphene in bulk graphite. The results show that island formation is driven by kinetics, not thermodynamics.

Read the abstract in The Journal of Physical Chemistry C.

Anand Selected to Present the Fall 2018 LAS Dean's Lecture

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Lecture Series highlights faculty excellence in learning, discovery, and engagement in Iowa State’s largest college. The dean invites LAS faculty of international preeminence to present lectures from their own areas of expertise on topics of interest to the general public, designed to stimulate high-quality, intellectual discussion among faculty, staff, students, and community members.

Lectures are held during the fall and spring semesters during the academic year. Anand was selected to present the Fall 2018 LAS Dean's Lecture, watch the Seminar page for additional details on the date and time as it becomes available.

All inorganic approach makes better-performing perovskites for solar cells, LEDs

Javier Vela, associate professor of chemistry, specializes in optical materials. His research group develops perovskite materials through soft chemistry— low-environmental impact processes that use room temperature and solution-phase reactions.

The research is further discussed in the paper, “Aliovalent Doping of Lead Halide Perovskites: Exploring the CH3NH3PbI3—(CH3NH3)3Sb2I9 Nanocrystalline Phase Space,” authored by Feng Zhu, Noreen E. Gentry, Long Men, Miles A. White, and Javier Vela; and published in a Special Issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry C.

Chemistry Faculty work with Science Bound Students

Science Bound is a program started by Iowa State University to empower Iowa students of color to pursue degrees and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The program works with middle and high school students from Des Moines, Denison and Marshalltown.

Each summer, the Young Engineers and Scientists (YES) program at Iowa State works with Science Bound students. YES is a six-week paid internship where students work with a faculty mentor on research in STEM disciplines at Iowa State. YES also holds seminars for the students to focus on their academic and professional development.

Emily Smith, professor of chemistry, is among the faculty mentors working with YES this summer. Smith will work with a student to use light to investigate properties of different types of samples. They will focus on the effects of temperature on chemicals that have intriguing but poorly understood properties. The Science Bound students bring a fresh perspective and excitement to the lab.

Javier Vela, associate professor of chemistry, started a local chapter of Project SEED at Iowa State, a summer research program through the American Chemistry Society to give economically disadvantaged students a glimpse of what it’s like to be a chemist.

Vela works with Science Bound to recruit students for the program. This year there were more than 40 applicants. Three students were chosen from Roosevelt and North High School in Des Moines and will work with Vela; Vincenzo Venditti, assistant professor of chemistry; and Jared Anderson, professor of chemistry.

New thermoelectric material may reduce wasted energy

Waste energy in the form of heat has big potential that Kirill Kovnir wants to see recaptured and used. “Normally as a country in general, we waste more than 60 percent of the energy we generate as heat, which we emit to the environment,” Kovnir said.

The new material he synthesized is an intermetallic clathrate, a solid compound in which one component is trapped within the crystalline framework of another. Kovnir has synthesized a material made of copper-phosphorous cages each containing lanthanum cations.

Building tools with organic chemistry

Brett VanVeller is passionate about helping students learn to apply their chemistry knowledge in a logical manner. He helps students connect very basic characteristics of atoms, such as their electronic properties, with how that relates to their structure, then how the structure relates to their activity and so on, building a framework for understanding how all the pieces fit together.

Read more about VanVeller's teaching and research.

Burnett shares enthusiasm for chemistry at Hillside Elementary

Joseph (Joe) Burnett, senior lecturer of chemistry, recently shared chemistry demonstrations with sixth-graders at Hillside Elementary School in Des Moines. The students had so many questions before he even started that he had to cut them short to have time to share the demonstrations.

Setting a standard for security

Houk devised, demonstrated and improved an experiment called inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). From searching for nuclear weapon activity to monitoring human health, ICP-MS detects what no other instrument can. Houk’s development of ICP-MS changed standards and methods in detecting and monitoring trace elements.

ICP-MS is not the only method for detecting trace elements, but it does provide the most comprehensive picture to date. It can measure 70 or more elements down to 1 part per trillion, providing more information to be seen with fewer samples and in less time.

Finding trace amounts of elements may seem similar to the task of searching for a needle in a haystack. But, thanks to Houk, it is now done with an extremely sensitive, multielement metal detector.

Newly discovered copper and graphite combo could lead to more efficient lithium-ion batteries

“Copper is a highly conductive material but susceptible to oxidation. Being able to successfully embed it just underneath the surface of graphite protects the copper, and suggests a number of potential applications, including battery technology,” said Research Assistant Ann Lii-Rosales.

Summer, 2018 Dean's High Impact Awards for Undergraduate Research

Department of Chemistry earned three Summer, 2018 Dean's High Impact Awards for Undergraduate Research. One went to Katelyn Baumler who is being mentored by Javier Vela, the second one was earned by Zachary Robole who will be guded by Brett VanVeller, and the third one went to Anthony Song who is in the lab of Jacob Petrich.

Undergraduate research is a high impact activity that will sharpen critical thinking skills and is a great credential when applying to professional or graduate school. In addition, it gives students valuable preparation that is recognized by employers. Congratulations on being selected for the highly competitive awards.

P&S Excellence Award

Congratulations to Trond Forre for receiving the P&S Excellence Award.

LAS Achievement in Interllectual Property Award

Congratulations to Wenyu Huang for receiving the LAS Achievement in Intellectual Property Award.